I applaud the creative thinking, which we will continue to need.
Parking lots at Bush and Hobby airports soon will be home to mass vaccination clinics for the Houston Health Department, as the supply of shots continues to ramp up.
City Council unanimously approved lease arrangements at the airports Wednesday.
The site at Bush’s The Parking Spot opened Tuesday under a short-term lease agreement, with some 6,665 people scheduled to get shots there this week. It is not clear yet when the Hobby location of The Parking Spot will open for vaccinations, although the request for council action said it is necessary “for this operation to begin immediately.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner said he hopes the number of doses coming to the city will “exponentially increase” since the state has opened the eligibility requirements. If that happens, he said the city can open “many more locations” for people to get a vaccine, along with mobile sites that move around the city to reach people who have trouble leaving their homes.
“Please go and get the vaccination where you can, or sign up to receive it,” Turner said. “The goal is to increase the number of sites.”
The request for council action on the airport leases said the Health Department anticipates receiving a large number of vaccines on a more routine basis.
The new sites would double the number of the city’s main vaccination sites, according to the Health Department. It also operates clinics at Delmar Stadium and the Bayou City Event Center. Those four sites are designed to ramp up to 3,000 doses per day, six days per week, when the supply allows. The clinics at Bush Airport, Delmar and Bayou City Event Center are giving out between 1,000 and 2,500 doses per day currently.
The city has also benefited from a federal vaccination site at NRG Stadium, capable of giving 6,000 shots per day. The Health Department said it will consider continuing that site when the Federal Emergency Management Agency demobilizes it, likely sometime in April.
The city also uses health centers, multi-service centers and partnerships with clinics, pharmacies, churches and other groups to distribute the vaccine.
As the story notes, the airport parking lots are a lot less busy now than they usually are, for all the obvious reasons. The city owns the airports, which minimizes the cost involved, which will be covered by federal grant money anyway. The city and Harris County have also asked FEMA to keep the NRG site open at least through the end of May. We’ll see how they respond.
Basically, the city of Houston and Harris County seem to be doing everything they reasonably can to get as many shots into arms as possible. Equity remains an issue, which County Judge Lina Hidalgo brings up.
As Harris County crossed the threshold of one million COVID-19 vaccine shots into the arms of local residents Thursday afternoon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo pleaded with local vaccine providers to do a better job of getting doses to the county’s hard-hit minority communities.
Even though she acknowledged that hitting the million dose mark is “wonderful news,” she said during a Thursday press conference that only 12.1 percent of Harris County residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared to the 11 percent of all Texans that were fully-vaccinated as of Tuesday.
Hidalgo also pointed out how Black and Hispanic residents still aren’t getting vaccinated at the same rate as white and Asian residents, and challenged other local vaccinators to follow Harris County’s lead by making a concerted effort to change those trends.
“We’ve been going door-to-door in the hardest hit communities to get folks to register for our waitlist, but we need other providers in Harris County to join the effort more forcefully,” Hidalgo said.
“Every organization that administers vaccines in this county has a moral responsibility to reach the hardest hit residents,” she continued.
Again, I think the city and the county have done pretty well here, and I’d bet we would not be above the state baseline for vaccinations if that were not the case. There’s always room for improvement, and since the Black and Latino populations tend to be younger than the Anglo population, the opening of vaccine eligibility to all should help even things out a bit as well. It is up to all providers to do their part.